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Perfect start for FC United at Stafford Rangers: full report

Two first half goals from Matthew Wolfenden and Dean Stott plus a rock solid defensive performance from FC United took all three points at much fancied Stafford Rangers on the opening Saturday afternoon of the Evo-Stik Premier Division season.

The Reds burst out of the blocks and caught their opponents cold with a goal in the first minute, Wolfenden heading home from a Nicky Platt corner. United dominated the game throughout and doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time with another close range finish.

United probably should have won by more than two goals but the vast majority of the 1,707 supporters at Marston Road will not be too concerned by that, especially because Stafford did not even get a sniff of a way back into the match due to a commanding defensive display by the visitors.

Some fans were still queuing to get through the turnstiles as Wolfenden nodded United into an early lead and the former Oldham Athletic forward could have doubled his tally inside the first ten minutes.

Roca was in fine form and gave left-back Dan Skelton a torrid afternoon. The tricky United winger turned his marker inside out for the first of many times before curling in a beautifully weighted defence splitting pass which deserved a goal. However, Wolfenden took a touch and saw his powerful shot smothered by goalkeeper Danny Read and then Nicky Platt smashed the rebound over the bar.

Like Roca, Ben Deegan was in a menacing mood and he gave chase to every throughball and flick on that came his way, twice forcing Read and his centre-backs into hurried clearances into touch.

If it was a boxing match, Stafford’s trainer might have been concerned enough to throw the towel in because Rangers were on the ropes. It was a flag rather than a towel though that thwarted United’s relentless pummelling of their hosts as the referee’s assistant felt that the Reds were guilty of straying offside twice and he also felt Jake Cottrell had unfairly won the ball on the halfway line moments before he released Deegan to go through on goal.

When Deegan was finally given the all clear by the linesman on 22 minutes, the big striker found himself by the right corner flag before pulling the ball back to Roca. The winger cruelly danced around Skelton before whipping a ball in for substitute Michael Carr – on for the injured Kyle Jacobs - to fire over the bar.

On 25 minutes Stafford mustered their first shot on goal although unfortunately for them, Chris Budrys ballooned a volley high and wide from the edge of the box after some promising build up play.

Cottrell and Platt were ably protecting the back four and it was Cottrell who got United moving again at the other end with some neat interchanges with Wolfenden. Cottrell sprayed the ball out right to Deegan who teed up Wolfenden with a delicate back-heel, belying his reputation as a stereotypical target man. Unfortunately Wolfenden’s shot went just wide of the right post.

With thoughts turning to the half-time team talk and refreshments, United got the second goal that their dominance deserved and it again came from a corner. Roca played the ball back up the line to Battersby on the right, he put in a probing ball forward to Platt who turned his back on goal to shield the ball from two covering defenders before laying it back out to Roca on the right. Roca fired a dangerous ball into the crowded penalty area and Stott happily beat everyone to it, bundling home for 2-0.

United put in a disciplined second half performance and although they had to weather a ten minute storm at the restart, Adam Jones, Lee Neville and goalkeeper James Spencer were in particularly commanding mood and it never looked like Stafford would be given a route back into the game. And so it proved.

Arguably the best chance Stafford had still didn’t actually force Spencer into a save. Just before the hour mark, Liam Shotton managed to breach the United backline to go one-on-one with the Reds’ new keeper. However, Spencer was quick to get down and steal the ball from the striker’s by diving at his feet. It was a fine piece of goalkeeping.

Platt and Deegan both could have extended United’s lead but Read kept the score down to 2-0 with two good saves, which helped him to gain the home side’s man of the match award. Platt’s chance came midway through the second half after a great run on the left by Neville. The full-back skipped past two defenders before drawing Read out of his goal and squaring the ball for Platt. The keeper scampered back across his goalmouth and was able to push Platt’s high shot over the bar.

Deegan’s effort came ten minutes before the end in a similar fashion. This time it was Wolfenden who beat the offside trap to race clear of The Boro defence before laying the ball back to Deegan but Read was once again equal to his shot. It barely mattered though as the game had long since been won and FC United got their seventh season off to the perfect start.

Website man of the match: Carlos Roca.

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First Posted ~ 16:11 Sat 20 Aug 2011
News ID ~ 3696
Last Updated ~ 16:11 Sat 20 Aug 2011